this is no longer my blog

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


I've got a slogan

and here it is:

Tough on dirt, Gentle on Mark.

And my blog's slogan is:

The Future's Bright. The Future's Stumbling Toward Divinity.

Find out your personal slogan. Go here:

Monday, September 26, 2005


my politics

A bit of free time fun!

You are a

Social Liberal
(68% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(6% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

(in the top diagram, the little circle that says "you" is smack dab on top of the word "socialist.")

I wanted to show the graphics where it shows you where famous people fall in these typologies, because in it, I get to hang out with Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mahatma Gandhi, Bono, Martin Luther King Jr, Mikhail Gorbachev, John Kerry and Adam Sandler. Sounds like a fun bunch to hang out with!


am i listening?

As you may have noticed, I've been blogging A LOT lately about youth ministry and my calling to ministry and my first call after I graduate from seminary. When I began this whole process towards ordination, I commited myself to being open to God's call in my life and following where that leads.
There are two types of "call." There's the internal call, which is the feeling or drive inside to pursue a vocation in ministry. Sort of like an inner voice encouraging you to pursue it.
Then there is the external call, which comes from other people outside of ourselves. Those would be the people that say things like, "Have you thought about becoming a pastor?" or "You definitely have gifts for outdoor ministry, have you thought about pursuing that?" It is when people point out your gifts and encourage you to pursue using them.
So, you've all been privileged enough to read about my inner sense of call, and what is going on in that department. Today, however, something happened at church that got me to thinking, especially because this has been on my mind lately. If it had happened any other time, it might not have had much of an effect on me. But, given what I've been thinking and processing lately, it made an impact.
It was after the service, and we were all walking out. I shook the pastor's hand, as I always do, and we exchanged greetings. Usually we just say Hello, and he asks how classes are going, and I say they're going pretty well and keep going so that the line keeps moving. But today, as I was shaking his hand, he said that they had met with the youth to talk about youth activities. Several of the youth had mentioned that they thought I was pretty cool and that they should get me to help out with some of the activities. So, the pastor said, I should be expecting a phone call from the church sometime.
Now, I know it's not a big, blinding flash of light on the road to Damascus sort of event. And I know there's the distinct possibility that I might be reading more into this than I should be. And perhaps I am, but it also seemed like it was a still, small voice saying, "You have gifts for this ministry. People recognize those gifts. You will continue to be called to use these gifts."

Friday, September 23, 2005


here's what i am thinking now...

If you've already read this post, please read the recently added disclaimer at the bottom! Gracias!!

Why do people make it sound like it will be such a waste if I become a pastor whose focus is youth ministry? It sometimes sounds as if I don't use my gifts for the entire church, then I'm somehow squandering or wasting or misdirecting them. Ministry to/with/alongside youth IS ministry to the whole church! I think that the church becomes a one-eared Mickey Mouse when you have the pastors, who minister to the "whole church" (we'll talk about that in a second) and then you have the youth director who is in charge of the youth stuff. That is what fragments and separates the youth from the rest of the church body. But if the youth see the person who had a lock-in with them or who took them out for coffee or who is willing to sit and chat and listen to them up in front of the church preaching or administering communion, then I think they're more likely to feel as if they are a valued and valuable part of the community.
Before I took my job as a youth director many moons ago, one of the co-pastors at the church was very much involved in youth ministry. She led a lot of the Bible studies, planned some of the activities, and chaired the youth ministry committee. The minute I came on board, she dropped all of that (except for chairing the youth ministry committee, but that's because she wanted me to know that she was still my boss). As soon as there was someone else to do the work, involvement in the youth program became the lowest thing on her list of priorities. What kind of message is that sending the youth?
Being a youth pastor WILL NOT be a waste of my gifts. It does not mean that I cannot or will not be able to do ministry to/with/alongside the rest of the people gathered in that congregation. What I think it means is that as a pastor called to the entire congregation, one of my main objectives will be to minister to the youth and include them wholeheartedly in the ministry of the rest of the church.
That being said, I still am not sure what I'm going to put on my paperwork...

Disclaimer: While there may be references to various comments I have received, I hope that no one who took the time to comment on my previous blog feels as if they are being accused or that their advice was not taken to heart. This entry is in response to many of the things that people have said to me, of which the comments on my blog are only a small part. I appreciate it when people take the time to read and comment on my thoughts and ideas and rants and raves, so please continue to do so, even if I seem to misinterpret your intent!! :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


don't diss the count

So there are a lot of thoughts that are jumbled up in my head, that I am going to try to process here. I think it might be hard to translate them in such a way that makes sense to those not inside my head, but I'll try. Here goes:

I just got in from playing a large game of dodgeball with some of the seminary kids. I had a GREAT time. Interacting with youth is something that comes extremely natural to me. I love doing it and I seem to be pretty good at it.

Now, with my first call coming up (VERY SOON!!), I need to really start thinking about what kind of ministry I feel called to. If you asked me before these past couple of weeks, I would have told you youth ministry, no doubt. I thought my ideal first call would have been as an associate pastor with youth ministry responsibilities. It made sense because it is where I am comfortable.

However, as the senior class at the mothership begins to start the thought process about first call and filling out the forms that go along with that, I've gotten into discussions with many of my classmates about where we feel we are called. There have been several of my classmates and friends who have called me onto the carpet for all of the ways I discount and minimize my gifts. It is much easier for me to acknowledge the gifts of others, and I tend to think that I share none of those gifts with them. Last night, a group of us were at a local mexican restaurant imbibing in margaritas and beer and chips and salsa and queso. Somehow the conversation turned into how I discount my gifts, at which point one of them said, "Whoever think Mark discounts his gifts, raise your hand!" Every person at the table raised their hand. Dag, yo!

In discussion with a good friend of mine lately, she has told me repeatedly (most often through knowing looks or comments such as, "Remember what I told you!") that I need to realize the gifts I bring and the gift that I am. She has told me that she thinks that I want to settle into a youth ministry position because that is where I am comfortable. She thinks I might be a bit uneasy or afraid of the thought of taking on responsibility of a congregation outside of youth ministry. If it was one person, I might be able to discount what was said, but everyone at the table at the time she said it agreed. She has said that if I take a first call that is a youth ministry position that she will be very angry with me. The others at the table agreed with that statement, too.

So, that has got me thinking. I know that I have gifts in youth ministry. It is something I enjoy. But, does that mean that it should encompass my entire calling? I admit that that I feel much more comfortable doing youth ministry than some of the other responsibilities that fall under a pastor's umbrella. But, as I saw on internship, I have gifts outside of youth ministry it's just a matter of claiming them and using them.

When I fill out my paperwork, then, do I say that I want the focus of my ministry to be youth? Or do I just put that as an interest/ability that I have? I'm one of the first people to say that the youth of our churches deserve to be served by gifted and talented and called people. Often times the youth programs at churches get the straight out of college-I have no idea what I'm doing-type of people (I can say that, because I was once one of them). These people have a low retention rate and a high burnout rate. To accept a call as a youth pastor is NOT a bad thing or a waste of my gifts. But am I really called to solely youth ministry, or is it a comfort level thing?

I guess I have a lot of thinking to do...

Sunday, September 18, 2005


although i'm lacking in creativity...

I seem to be able to find things written by people who are not.
Through a random series of links, I happened upon this obituary. I hope someday that my loved ones deem it necessary to write me such an obituary as this one.
Read it. You'll understand!


A God With Whom I Am Not Familiar

My good friend J over at Grover's Corners posted a blog that really makes you think. So, I thought if there were any people that read my blog that don't read his (although, he started his much later than mine and I think his has already surpassed mine in popularity) that I should direct them over there, if for no other reason than to read this post. He did not write it, but it is well worth reading.

And while you're there, why not read some more of J's stuff? It's pretty good.

click HERE to go read.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


random meanderings

There is nothing burning inside of me, wanting to be written in my blog. But I feel like procrastinating all of the reading I should be doing, and blogging is a great tool for procrastination. Therefore, I am blogging regardless of whether or not I will say anything of importance or that is worth reading in the blabbering and blathering that follows.

Once again, I was not surprised by what happened at the meeting for my class. We elected co-presidents and co-vice presidents with no problem. Several nominees for each category, actually. In a relatively short time we had people elected to sit in on the various faculty committees and a couple of our student led committees. Then, it came time to get some people to sit on the youth committee. Crickets. Although a couple of my classmates turned to me, expecting me to either volunteer or looking to nominate me. But, seeing as how I already have a position in our student association, I was unable to represent my class on another committee. So, what happened, you ask? We decided to wait until our next meeting to figure it out. Grrrr... I'm trying not to be angry or bitter, and reminding myself that not everyone has the same calling or the same gifts that I do, and many people do not have confidence in their abilities to work with youth. There are a lot of factors that play into the reluctance of my classmates to volunteer for this committee. But, I also get angry because I think a lot of it has to do with people not wanting to "waste their time" on the youth committee. And THAT pisses me off. But, I've already spoken to that in a previous post, so I will not continue to beat that dead horse any longer.

So, it's the weekend after my first week of classes in the first semester of my final year of seminary. I have A LOT of reading to do. A LOT. And I don't want to do it. But I know I need to. And I've had a lot of meetings. In my current position as one of the co-vice presidents of the association of seminary students (that's not the real name of the group, but if you take the first letter of each of those words it spells ass and that makes me laugh) it seems like I'm constantly attending meetings and being "official" and whatnot. Although, thank the sweet Lord, I did not get elected to the position of co-president (which is what my friend and I originally did) because the co-presidents attend all of the meetings that I do, plus faculty meetings and cabinet meetings and board meetings. Doesn't sound like much fun to me.

The next step I need to take in the candidacy process of the ELCA is what is called approval. This step is done in several stages. There is the approval essay (which I have written, and then I need to provide a copy to my candidacy committee in my home synod, my academic advisor and my second faculty interviewer (more about that in a second)), then there is my faculty interview which is run by my academic advisor and a second faculty member. Then, sometime this semester (or over Christmas break) I have my approval interview with my candidacy committee. Hopefully, I am approved for ordained ministry by both the faculty here at seminary and by my candidacy committee. I can also be postponed or denied. If I am postponed, there are some hoops I will have to jump through, and some things that will need to be done before I can go up for approval again. If I am denied, there are no other options. I'm basically out of the process, and these last five years of seminary have been a waste.
Normally, I wouldn't be too worried about this approval process. My academic advisor that I have had since the beginning of my seminary career, who knows me extremely well, has experience and practice putting up with my crap, and who doesn't let me get away with anything has always been a great supporter and advocate for me. She definitely believes in me and my gifts for ministry. However, she's on sabbatical this year. So, I had to switch to a different advisor. So, I chose the professor who I think knows me the second best, and who I am friendly with. He will probably ask tough questions, but I do not fear that he will enter the interview with the intention of making me cry or denying me approval. But, now here's the biggest however: He has been teamed up with THE professor that intimidates the crap out of me. This professor intimidates a lot of people, and many (including me) have tried to schedule their classes and lives in such a way as to avoid taking classes with this man. Except for systematic theology my first year, when I did not have a choice, I have not taken any classes with this man. So, of course he is my approval interviewer.
So, if you know me, then you know I have spent sufficient time freaking out. It has not been helped by conversations that go like this:
Speaker #1: I got Dr. E and Dr. R for my approval interview. I think it should be fun.
Speaker #2: Yeah, I got Dr. O and Dr. L for mine. It will be a little tough, but it should be fine.
Speaker #3: That's who I have. I'm just glad I don't Dr. F and Dr. P, that is the scariest team out of all of them.
Speaker #1: Yeah, those two would be the scariest.
Speaker #2: I am SO thankful I don't have them. Who do you have, Mark?
Me: Um... Dr. F and Dr. P
Speakers #1,2,3: (various combinations of "ooooh" and "ummmm..." and "well...uhh... that really won't be that bad....")
But, honestly, the more I get used to the idea the better I am able to handle it. It is, indeed, nerve-wracking but I whole-heartedly believe that no faculty member is out to get anyone, and chances are if there were any reason for me to believe that I would not receive faculty approval, I am sure that I would have been told before now. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine who would have had difficulty getting through the approval process was contacted ahead of time and told that they should think about postponing the process for themselves, and that they should think about doing certain things, as a way to make it look like the postponement was their idea, that way they wouldn't have to do all of the hoop jumping that occurs when the faculty or the candidacy committee postpones you. This way, it made the candidate look proactive and as if they were taking the initiative. No faculty member has said anything like that to me, so I think that I will be okay. I'll be sure to let you know what happens as this progresses.

And now, I should really go back to reading. As much as I may not want to, I know that it is something I need to do. I hope you are all enjoying your weekend!

Monday, September 12, 2005


youth and responsibilities

So, after having some time to think, and talk about it with friends, I'm not as upset about some of the things that happened at the picnic. Namely, that the co-chairs didn't help. Word has gotten around that perhaps they were not told that it was expected of them that they were to help. And seeing as how they are both new to the position, they'd have no way of knowing, really. So, their lack of participation might be able to be explained away.

But that doesn't explain the lack of participation by the other two volunteers. Of course, one of the volunteers was out of my sight for most of the evening. Therefore, I have no proof that he wasn't actually interacting with a group of youth somewhere. Since I cannot prove that he did not participate, I really shouldn't be upset.

Although there is the one volunteer who was mere feet from the place where we were playing games and who did not join in. He merely stood and watched a group of seminary students playing another game.

Now, some of you may think I'm blowing things out of proportion. But you have to understand, it seems all too often that the youth in this communty receive what is known as "the shaft." It seems that people think there should be activities and opportunities available for the youth, but they don't want to be the ones to provide it.
Case in point: Two years ago, almost exactly, I was co-chair of the Youth Ministry Committee for the second year. My class was holding elections, where it was expected of us to elect representatives to all of the various committees. We were moving along smoothly until it got to be time to elect a representative for the Youth Ministry Committee. Then it became like pulling teeth. People just did not want to volunteer. A fellow student (who had a child who benefitted from the committee) asked, "Well, since the chairs of the committee are in our class, do we need to have a representative?" Here's the flaw in that argument: the chairs of EVERY committee were from our class, so if we followed that argument, none of the committees would have had representatives from our class. But, none of the other committees had trouble getting representation. So, why did it seem like that might even be a possibility when it came to the youth? Finally, someone dared to speak up, but only to ask, "What's the time commitment?" Then someone else jumped on that, and said that since they had asked the question they were obviously interested. The question-asker, who was kind of backed into a corner, made sure to point out that their intention was not to volunteer, but since no one else was, she'd be more than willing to do so. So, after what seemed like forever, we finally got a representative from the class.

And I have gotten quite close to a number of the youth on campus. Being a pretty consistent presence in the youth ministry committee for the three years I was on campus before I left for internship, I had the great and wonderful opportunity to build some pretty amazing relationships with some of the youth. So, if I think they're not being treated the way they deserve, I'm going to get indignant. If you say you're going to spend time with the youth, then you'd darn well better spend time with them. And regardless of whether they signed up to help with the youth or to clean up after the picnic or whatever else, if you signed up to do something then people are counting on you to do it. SO DO IT!!!!!

Anyway, I should go to bed. The semester officially starts tomorrow. I've got places to go and people to see and things to do and food to eat. So I should be rested.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


just trying to let things go

So, Friday evening the Mothership had a picnic. It's a pretty big deal. Faculty, staff and students all drive out to a park, and they usually have barbeque and non-barbeque pulled pork sandwiches, along with chips and cookies and other yummy goodness. Then, there is time to be social, and there are games for the kids.

Every year that I have been at seminary, I've helped with leading activities for the youth. The first year, I signed up to help. The second and third year it was pretty much expected of me, because I was the co-chair of the youth ministry committee on campus. We usually had parachute games for the little ones, and we'd start ultimate frisbee or kickball or something like that for the bigger kids. It was usually well organized (by the committee co-chairs) and we usually had one or two volunteers to help.

This year, I wasn't officially expected to help lead games. Unofficially, I think it was very expected of me. Especially by the youth. And I wanted to help, so I signed up early in the week to do so. There were two other seminary students who had signed up to help.

Fast forward to the picnic. The eating and announcements were basically over, and people were milling about and socializing. So the games should have been starting. But they weren't. Part of me wanted to take charge and announce that games would be starting, and then taking the kids over to play games. But I didn't want to step on toes, or make people angry because I was taking charge of something that wasn't mine to take charge of. I had people in my class asking me when games were going to start, because they expected me to have some idea of what was going on. I didn't.

Eventually, one of the guys who volunteered came over and said, "So, should we start some games?"
"Finally!" I thought, and started trying to round up kids to play games. At that point, we had three adult volunteers (the three of us who signed up). Somewhere, in the time it took us to round up a good group to play games, we lost one of the volunteers. In the time it took us to figure out what game the kids wanted to play, and to walk across the road to the field in which we would play, we lost the other volunteer. So, it was just the kids and me. So we played some games.

Later on, the first AWOL volunteer showed up, although he watched a group of seminary students playing some yard game. We were ten feet from them, playing a game, and he didn't ever come over to volunteer like he signed up for.

Finally, the second AWOL volunteer showed up, with the intention of getting his son to go home. He did stay, however, and played for about five minutes with us. After that, the game sort of broke up and we all walked back over to socialize.

The co-chairs of the youth ministry committee did not plan any activities, and only brought a few things for the kids to play with, and did not help at all.

I'm kind of angry. I think it was the job (as it has been in the past) of the youth ministry committee to organize, plan and equip the games for the kids. I think it was the job (because they commited to it) of the people who signed up to actually lead games and activities for the youth. I'm angry that none of them followed through on what they were supposed to do. I suppose I could say something, but would that do anything? If I was going to say something, it should have been during the picnic because that is when it would have done the most good. Now, after the fact, it can't really help at all.

Well... Because it is the way I am, the youth ministry co-chairs are expecting me to help at a lot of youth activities. If something like this happens again, I will be sure to say something about it. People need to do their jobs. The youth deserve it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005



it's too early.
definitely NOT a morning person.


you can't teach an old procrastinator new tricks

Tomorrow is the first day of the semester. We kicked off the beginning of the school year with opening worship this evening, for which I was an usher. We started out with the different classes gathering in groups out on the front lawn of the seminary. They had a prayer at the beginning of worship where they prayed for each group gathered (and the interns out on internship) and when they announced each group the group was to respond by shouting, "Hallelujah!" After the first shout, all the babies in the crowd started to cry. By the time the parents got the babies quiet, the next group shouted hallelujah and the whole thing started all over again. And we have a veritable plethora of babies on campus this year.

I got the chance to hold a couple of those babies after the worship service. One of them belongs to my good friend who coordinated the Boundary Waters trip. They were also taking pictures for the photo/phone directory that goes out to all of the students. Normally, the picture you take for your student i.d. is the one that they use your entire time at seminary, unless there is a drastic change, such as having a baby. The student who was in charge of taking the pictures was encouraging lots of people to have their pictures retaken. I wanted to get mine taken making some stupid face (if you know me, you understand), and was asking people if they thought it was a good idea. One of my friends (and the wife of a classmate) suggested I get my picture taken with their 6 month old (I think he's six months). So, I did. Then, we were supposed to write our names how we wanted them in the directory, so I wrote "Mark [last name] and Seth [last name] (not related)" So, we'll see if they actually replace my picture in the photo directory with that one. I don't see why they wouldn't, but sometimes the administration can be fun-killers.

So, class starts tomorrow at 8am. You would think I would be in bed, getting a good night's sleep for the first day of classes. However, I put off writing two papers that are due tomorrow until this evening. I also procrastinated cleaning my room, so that I won't get fined tomorrow. So I did all of that tonight. I'm unsure whether I satisfactorily completed the assignment, but it is completed. I think that the reason for the assignment is just to generate discussion about pastoral theology method on internship, so if my paper doesn't adequately discuss the issue, perhaps our discussion in class will do so. Or, perhaps, I'll fail and get booted out of seminary for being a horrible person. We'll see.

Monday, September 05, 2005


i could have died (disclaimer: that's a bit of an exaggeration. just a bit.)

A couple of days ago I was in the midst of doing laundry or some other such thing in an attempt to procrastinate writing something for class, which starts this week. Now, the stairways in the dorm are closed off from each floor by doors. I was headed down to the basement, so I pushed the door open and walked into the stairway. That's when I felt something hit me on the top left of my head. It startled me, so I jumped, but also stopped to figure out what had hit me in the head. That's when I saw it fall to the ground. It was a bat.

No, not a Louisville Slugger kind of bat. A fur and wings and teeth kind of bat.

That's when I let out an extremely manly sound similar to "Uaarraarrraaeeerrrhhh!"

I looked to the ground and saw this poor little bat, curled up and obviously scared and confused by all of the light. After some freaking out, I figured I needed to get this bat out of the dormitory. So I retreated to my room and grabbed a towel. Placing the towel on top of the bat, I scooped the towel together and picked the bat up off of the ground. I could hear the bat chirping or squeaking, or whatever noise a bat makes, so I knew it was alive.

Part way down the stairs (and about 5 feet away from getting it outside) either the bat managed to squeeze out of towel and I got startled and dropped the towel, or I lost grip on the towel and it fell (I don't remember which exactly) but somehow the towel came out of my hand and the bat started flying around the stairway like a maniac.

I ran up the stairs, being pursued by the bat, and making some more manly noises. I ducked and ran, but the bat kept swooping at me and chasing me. I don't really believe that the bat wished me harm, I just believe that it was confused and discombobulated. It flew into the rungs of the stairway railing a couple of times, as well, before flying all the way upstairs.

So I quickly retreated back to my room, figuring that both the bat and I had been traumatized enough for the moment and we both deserved a break.

Friday, September 02, 2005


things that make me angry

okay, one thing, really.
Now, I am not a neat person. My preferred state of being seems to be cluttered.
Well, I am currently in the midst of moving back into my dorm room here at seminary. I have not been anxious to unpack things, and so there are a lot of boxes and rubber maids stacked around.
And that is the time that the seminary decides to have the fire inspector come and make sure the dormitory is up to code. And, wouldn't you know it, my room gets written up for being, get this, TOO MESSY! Well, of course it's messy! I'm moving in!!!!
Anyway, to make matters worse, I have until September 6th to clean it, or I could get fined. What's up with that?
So, yeah. I guess that gets me motivated to actually unpack and put things away. I guess, maybe, Someone thought I was being too much of a slacker and decided to put a little fire underneath me?


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